Journey to Systema -or- "What is it about Systema that so inspires"

By Morten Danielson
My name is Morten Danielsen and I am a Systema Instructor under Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev. I am also the one presenting the training of Systema at our club in Esbjerg, Denmark. But this is not about me – this is about our Journey.

 

Our club was traditionally a karate club. Small compared to many – and after the journey together with Vladimir, Mikhail, Valentin, Konstantin, Sergei and others we have dedicated ourselves to Systema.

 

Systema Denmark started in Germany. Some of our club members went to a seminar in Münster with Mikhail and they got convinced that there was something they had to investigate further. So after purchasing many of the great DVDs (and my own personal favorite is Systema Hand to Hand, if you want to know) we started including some of the exercises in our karate training.

 

That was not enough for me. Being somewhat older and heavier than the most in our club, I sensed that Systema matched me in a way unprecedented to anything I have experienced in martial arts before. And after participating in another seminar in Münster, this time with Vladimir, and having the good fortune to spend some time talking about life and Systema, I got so inspired that I for one no longer train the traditional karate!

 

Members of our club also found the aspects and principles of Systema so interesting that they backed my participation at the Summit of Masters held in Toronto in 2006. The Summit of Masters was a great meeting of friends and a great display of Systema. We experienced many of the subjects covered in the DVDs first hand, and I must say that the combination of the DVDs with participating at live seminars works wonders!

 

I also took part in the Spring Training in Toronto and seminars in Serbia, Sweden all in all it is my impression of being totally inspired for training and life.

 

And we know how things happen, the inspiring message of Systema had spread to others in Denmark and we now have four groups doing regular training sessions, and the numbers keep growing.

 

A very interesting question is··· What is it about Systema that so inspires?

 
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What is it about Systema that so inspires?

To me this is clear; it is the head instructors and the way they present the principles. It is how the principles have resonance within us. They meet our needs for being human and developing.

 

It is interesting to me that seminar participants are almost always grown and experienced people. Perhaps many of the principles and exercises are best experienced when you have some luggage to clear up! Perhaps this is when the resonance is the greatest!

 

One of the training subjects that is so very different than anything else I have encountered is Breathing. It is very well described in the Breathing book and DVDs but I envy those doing the seminars and training in Toronto with Vladimir. I did feel how Systema works miracles. Sensing the breath, experiencing the fear of lack of breath, experiencing the power of breathing, the amazing effect on the body and mind. It is training to be more alive and present. Understanding yourself, body and mind, sensing tension and relaxation. Being okay with this sensing and taking this awareness into our daily life and transforming it! Being more relaxed. Breathing. Moving. Facing and Handling Fear. Doing this together with Vladimir was and is life changing.

 

Compared to the karate I have grown up with, there are other things that differ and make resonance in an adult like myself:

 

Openness – Systema demands you to develop your own system of movements in order to deal with where you are at the moment. In most martial arts you were to learn patterns, techniques. And it is said that from there openness transcends!

 

Creativity – you have to find a way to deal with the situation yourself. Some direction might be presented but ultimately you find a way that works for you. In karate I was told and shown what to do. Now I do not do it that way. I have no time to chisel and hone my body to be able to perform as a “Japanese warrior”. And with Systema I do not need to. I can creatively find my own way and still survive.

 

Playing – there is not the sense of teacher/pupil – you have fun and find new ways by playing, you learn by doing and interacting freely. In many ways you are equals. Teachers and pupils are alike.

Spontaneity – there are no prearranged situations, actions and responses. An attack is not staged as something fixed, it is free play most of the time, exploring actions, movements etc. as they come. The difference here is that I almost never fought using what I learned in karate. It always ended in a dogfight and that for sure was not how we trained. The realism of full speed was not always present. Things have to work in real situations otherwise it is academic interest only and not fighting.

 

Honesty – you know the moves that you learn really work, you see the results clearly and your body knows it is working. You hit and you are being hit, kicked, and pushed. It is never “it works because I say so·· ·” – no secrets but real effect.

 

Awareness and smoothness – you train your awareness to become more and more smooth. Personally I hope to get a chance for a 24 hours striking session from Vladimir one day. Scott described this in a forum post how training can consist of many short sessions or one of multiple contacts maybe million times with fists, chains, chairs, sticks from someone you trust!!! In the karate developing sensitivity was a very small part. It was more desensitizing to become as hard as possible, and therefore very stiff and rigid.

 

Fear – meeting your fear, handling your fear, accepting it, developing from it. Being human, not superhuman. Yet gaining enough courage and strength to conquer the fear.

Togetherness – you can train on your own but mostly you train with others on various stages in their Systema skill, you help others, you are being helped, you trust others and you are being trusted. It is an accomplishment to take a fist full of power, knowing it will come, without moving, hitting back or screaming for help but smiling and breathing, relaxing and thanking your partner in mutual respect. Smiling, grinning, enjoying – together.

 

In everyway, it is you who develops; you do not have to conform to a “perfect picture”, perfect techniques. Striving for perfection is striving to be a good person.

And I could go on···

 

These are some of the reasons I like Systema more than other systems. And it is not a question of what is better it is all a matter of liking it and making the right choice. I chose Systema and it works for me. Funny enough, as most of us I do not know if I will one day need the fighting skills again but we surely need being calm, smooth, breathing, and moving.

 

About the author:
Morten Danielsen is a certified Systema instructor. He has over 30 years of martial arts experience and is a supervisor and coach in Developmental Behavioral Modeling and Sensory Systems in Denmark (Systema Denmark).
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